History repeating itself…
The advertising blurb announced that thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the First Order: Supreme Commander Snoke and (a wannabe Vader) Kylo Ren.
To compare Star Wars: The Force Awakens with Star Wars: A New Hope is perhaps unfair but I can’t help it. The galaxy faces another threat. First time around, A New Hope catapulted a young boy from his discontented teens into a quest to defeat the evil Empire. Lucas created classic characters: a beautiful but distressed damsel, the wise retried Jedi Knight, an Intergalactic Bad Boy accompanied by his large, dangerous teddy bear and Evil Super Villain duo Darth Vader and The Emperor.
And so, it happens again. In The Force Awakens, it’s Luke’s turn to be the reclusive sage-retired Jedi whom everyone seeks. The protagonist this time is Rey (Daisy Ridley) a street-wise girl, faithfully awaiting her family’s return, forced to scavenge an existence. Once again, a droid carries the key and its latching on to the protagonist initiates the quest to find the legendary Luke. Rey then discovers ‘The Force’ when she ‘hears’ voices and finds a light sabre.
The First Order, on first encounter does not seem much different from the old Empire. It has Supreme Commander Snoke (CGI hologram-ed Andy Serkis); what is essentially another death star (now bigger) and legions of white clad Stormtroopers who dispatch populations with the same casual violence. And it has Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who strides about in a black cloak and mask torturing anyone and everyone for information leading to Luke’s location.
On one level, The Force Awakens was hugely satisfying: the new droid was cute while C-3PO and R2-D2 were the reassuring constants; the franchise’s staple characters, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher), made their expected appearances; the knowing references to the past were appreciated, and the whizz-bangs whizzed and banged while the CGI aerial dog fights kept the audience ducking for cover. And, yes by now you’ll be expecting the caveat… it’s this: despite the quintessential ‘kick-arse’ heroine and warrior pacifist, Star Wars: The Force Awaken just wasn’t special enough.
If you were there at the beginning, you could identify with the heroes. This time, I was left uninspired. Leia as a General-Princess wasn’t supported by the writing, which also painted Han Solo as lack lustre and forced the character into making one last, seriously flawed judgement of character. Perhaps the new viewer will be inspired by Rey and Finn (John Boyega). Perhaps the somewhat deadpan acting will convince the next generation to rein in emotional outpouring? Perhaps the angsty Kylo Ren will grow to be a really scary villain? These X hundred million dollar questions will keep me coming back to check.